I am always drawn back to photopictorialism and I have chosen for today’s Favorite Photographs # 3 Arnold Genthe’s lovely autochrome image “Helen MacGowan Cooke picking California golden poppies in a field, 1906.” Now by this point in the twenty-first century the associations of poppies are “The Wizard of Oz” and Flanders field where poppies grow. But in 1906, I suspect that the main association with poppies was the golden glory of emerging summer. They offered, of course, a lovely way to show off and experiment with the equally emerging novelty of color photograph – and in that medium Genthe was a genius. The presence of Mrs MacGowan Cooke in the image emphasizes the femininity of the scene. Like Persephone she seems to bring the glory of spring back to the Earth. This association with Greek mythology is not a coincidental contrivance. You have only to look at her dress and hairstyle. This is one of those poses that is deeply routed in both our mythic and artistic pasts. And the pursuit of mythic images is ever so prevalent among the photopictorialists.
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